Boot up: Bitcoin crashes, PCs dwindle, the truth about Summly and more

Plus what really happened over the Saga comic and Apple, Android v ‘moar’, what WTF means at Twitter and more

A burst of 11 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Nearly 60K low-quality apps booted from Google Play store In February, points to increased spam-fighting >> TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:

To be clear, not all of these apps were deleted by Google. Some, such as a handful of Sprint bundles and apps, as well as the product from startup cautionary tale Color and several others, were likely pulled by the publishers themselves. But with a number as high as 60,000, it’s clear that many of these were pulled by Google directly.

We’re shocked, shocked that an open store where anyone can add content might harbour tens of thousands of spammy apps. (Thanks @pedgington for the link.)


Concluding the Saga #12 saga >> ComiXology Blog

In the last 24 hours there has been a lot of chatter about Apple banning Saga #12 from our Comics App on the Apple App Store due to depictions of gay sex. This is simply not true, and we’d like to clarify.


Why Marissa Mayer Bought A $30M Startup >> Business Insider

Nicholas Carlson:

So why, exactly, did Yahoo buy Summly? We finally have an answer!

Acquiring Summly seems to have been an almost incidental side effect of a deal Yahoo made with SRI for a piece of “summarization technology.”

A source tells us that Yahoo has “agreements in place” with SRI for “knowledge transfer,” and the acquisition of IP, code, and technology. Until Yahoo bought it, SRI International held equity in Summly.

SRI once held equity in another startup that was acquired by a big Silicon Valley company. That was Siri, which was funded by SRI International’s venture arm, and was later acquired by Apple.

And indeed, inside Yahoo, Summly is called “Yahoo’s Siri.”

Hmm. (Thanks @corin for the link.)


Chart of the day >> Reddit

Bitcoin buys and sells and prices on Wednesday 10 April 2013.


The first Bitcoin Crash >> broadstuff

The price of a Bitcoin climbed slowly but steadily until May, when Gawker and the tech blog Launch published two big stories about the phenomenon. Prices started zigzagging up, hitting a high of $33.11 last week after three weeks of increasingly frenzied trading, and then fell a spectacular 30 percent Friday morning, what the blogs dubbed “Digital Black Friday.” As of now—3 p.m. Tuesday—a Bitcoin can be had for around $18.

That was May 2011. Sorry, wasn’t that clear?


PC shipments post the steepest decline ever in a single quarter >> IDC

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 76.3m units in the first quarter of 2013, down 13.9% compared to the same quarter in 2012 and worse than the forecast decline of 7.7%, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

The extent of the year-on-year contraction marked the worst quarter since IDC began tracking the PC market quarterly in 1994. The results also marked the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year shipment declines.

…Fading mini-notebook shipments have taken a big chunk out of the low-end market while tablets and smartphones continue to divert consumer spending. PC industry efforts to offer touch capabilities and ultraslim systems have been hampered by traditional barriers of price and component supply, as well as a weak reception for Windows 8.

Sayonara, netbooks. Sayonara indeed.


Why I’m giving up on Android: the tyranny of ‘moar’ >> PCMag.com

Sascha Segan:

I’m an extreme phone geek. I like to change devices every six months or so, in part because I’m constantly recommending devices to others. For a while now, I’ve been using the Windows Phone 8X by HTC. I like Windows Phone a lot and the 8X’s hardware is gorgeous, but I miss Android, both for the flexible widgets and for the amazing array of third-party apps.

But the Android world has been seized by the tyranny of moar. To switch back, I need a decent one-handed phone. Like about 25 million other Americans and Canadians, I take public transportation to work, and I really like to play games standing up.

Using a phone one-handed poses physical limits based on the size of your thumb. Back in 2011, I measured the thumbs of 12 PCMag.com staffers and got them to try the Samsung Galaxy Nexus’s 4.65in screen (slideshow below). I found that it takes about a 7cm thumb to properly operate today’s larger phones, which is longer than most women and some men have.

Segan distinguishes “moar” from “more”: “Moar short circuits rational thought; it’s the feeling you get when you eat some bacon, and then want 16 strips of bacon because bacon is delicious even though, if you thought about it, you know it’ll make you ill.”

(Most people we see on public transport use two hands for their big-screen phones. One to hold, one to operate.)


WTF: The Who to Follow Service at Twitter >> Datascholars

WTF (“Who to Follow”) is Twitter’s user recommendation service, which is responsible for creating millions of connections daily between users based on shared interests, common connections, and other related factors. This paper provides an architectural overview and shares lessons we learned in building and running the service over the past few years.

Coining a new meaning for WTF.


Why Google’s acquisition of WhatsApp would be perilous to everyone’s privacy >> The Privacy Surgeon

Simon Davies (formerly of Privacy International):

By thrusting its hand into every data stream running to or from user devices [using WhatsApp], Google will be in an unprecedented position to gather more data about more individuals than any other entity on the planet.  The transactional and associative data alone would be vast.

This prospect – combined with Google’s existing track record on privacy and compliance – is a cause for grave concern.  If Google indeed is planning to acquire WhatsApp, then regulators must examine the effect of that acquisition – not only on competition – but also on consumer privacy.  If they do, it will be quite clear that – at a minimum – Google should be prohibited from combining user data from WhatsApp with data collected through other products and services.

Regulators were not able to stop Google from combining user data in the past.  They can and must start here.


Sand won’t save you this time >> In the Pipeline

Carrying on from dioxygen difluoride (aka FOOF):

In a comment to my post on putting out fires last week, one commenter mentioned the utility of the good old sand bucket, and wondered if there was anything that would go on to set the sand on fire. Thanks to a note from reader Robert L., I can report that there is indeed such a reagent: chlorine trifluoride.

I have not encountered this fine substance myself, but reading up on its properties immediately gives it a spot on my “no way, no how” list. Let’s put it this way: during World War II, the Germans were very interested in using it in self-igniting flamethrowers, but found it too nasty to work with.

…It’s been used in the semiconductor industry to clean oxides off of surfaces, at which activity it no doubt excels.

Maybe mention this stuff next time someone tells you how hard their job is. (Thanks @allanedwards on Twitter for the link.)


Making rain >> asymco

Horace Dediu:

I propose a way to think about [Google's business model and decisions] as: Google tries to make a business succeed through having a huge amount of _flow_ in terms of data, traffic, queries and information that is indexed. So think about this idea of them tapping into a vast stream. The more volume that is flowing through the system the more revenue they generate.

As so given this very rough analogy I try to sharpen it up by saying: imagine it more as a river. And even more than a river, as a watershed, a river basin. Perhaps a giant basin the size of a continent. The business is, let’s say, capturing fish at the mouth of the biggest river, before it exits into the ocean at its delta.

This is a fabulous extended metaphor which finally gets us away from the “good/evil” dichotomy that so many people apply to their thinking about Google and its business. If you only read one thing today…



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